Category Archives: Event

Admissions Office closure, 15-16 May

Exclamation mark graphicFor readers who need to apply for a reader’s card, please note that the Admissions Office will be closed on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 May 2024 due to a system upgrade.

  • For any applicant who has pre-ordered material two staff members of the Admissions team will be stationed in Blackwell Hall (in front of the big screen). They will check your application form and ID documents and provide you with an official letter advising library staff to allow you access on both dates.
  • We will not be able to issue any permits for University card holders to take guests to the Duke Humfrey’s either on the 15th or 16th of May.

Reader notice: Library catalogue downtime

Requesting items from closed stacks

Exclamation mark graphicBetween 16 – 23 August, you will not be able to use SOLO to request items from closed stacks or offsite storage. We strongly recommend that you place any requests through SOLO by 5pm on 11 August.

Libraries will extend item due dates, and items will not be returned to the stacks during the upgrade period.

We will be running a limited service to handle urgent stack requests placed between 16 – 23 August. To place a request, email book.fetch@bodleian.ox.ac.uk. You will only be able to pick up ordered items from the Bodleian Old Library or Weston Library. Please allow 48 hours for your item to be delivered.

 

Orders for manuscript and archival material will be unaffected. Rare Books held onsite can be ordered by emailing specialcollections.bookings@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Please email specialcollections.enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk for further assistance.

The International Internet Preservation Consortium Web Archiving Conference: Thoughts and Takeaways

A couple months ago, thanks to the generous support of the IIPC student bursary, I had the pleasure of attending the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) web archiving conference in Hilversum, The Netherlands. The conference took place in The Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, adding gravitas and rainbow colour to each of the talks and panels.

The Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision. Photo taken by Olga Holownia.

What I was struck by most throughout the conference was the extremely up-to-date ideas and topics of the panel. While typical archiving usually deals with history that happened decades or centuries ago, web archiving requires fast-paced decisions and actions to preserve contemporary material as it is being produced. The web is a dynamic, flexible, constantly changing entity. Content is often deleted or frequently buried under the constant barrage of new content creation. Therefore, web archivists must stay in the know and up to date in order keep up with the arms race between web technology and archiving resources.

For instance, right from the beginning, the opening keynote speech discussed the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, the independent investigative collective focused on producing open source research, discussed the role of digital metadata and digital preservation techniques in the fight against disinformation. Using the example of Russian spread propaganda about the war in Ukraine, Higgins demonstrated that archived versions of sites and videos, and their associated metadata, can help to debunk intentionally spread misinformation depicting the Ukrainian army in a bad light. For instance, geolocation metadata has been used to prove that multiple videos supposedly showing the Ukrainian army threatening and killing innocent civilians, were actually staged and filmed behind the Russian frontlines. The notion that web archives are not just preserving modern culture and history, but also aiding in the fight against harmful disinformation, is quite heartening.

A similarly current topic of conversation was the potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) in web archives. Given the hot topic that AI is, it’s prevalence at the web archiving conference was well received. The quality assurance process for web archiving, which can be arduous and time consuming, was mentioned as a potential use-case for AI. Checking every subpage of an archived site against the live site is impossible given time and resource constraints. However, if AI could be used to compare screenshots of the live site to the captured version, even without actually going in and patching the issues, just knowing where the issues are would save considerable time. Additionally, AI could be used to fill gaps in collections. It is hard to know what you do not know. In particular, the Bodleian has a collection aimed at preserving the events and experiences of peopled affected by the war in Ukraine. Given our web archiving team’s lack of Ukrainian and Russian language skills, it can be hard to know what sites to include in the collection and what not to. Thus, having AI generate a list of sites deemed culturally relevant to the conflict could help fill the gaps in this collection that we were not even aware of.

Social media archiving was also a significant subject discussed at the conference. Despite the large part that social media plays in our lives and culture, it can be very challenging to capture. For example, the Heritrix crawler, the most commonly used web crawler in web archiving, is blocked by Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, while Twitter technically remains capturable, much of the dynamic content contained in posts (i.e. videos, gifs, links to outside content) can’t be replayed in archived versions. Discussions of collaborations between social media companies and archivists were heralded as a necessity and something that needs to happen soon. In the meantime, talk of web archiving tools that may be best suited for dealing with social media captures included Webrecorder and other tools that mimic how a user would navigate a website in order to create a high-fidelity capture that includes dynamic content.

Between discussions of the role of web archives in halting the spread of disinformation, the use of barely understood tools like generative AI, and potential techniques to get around stumbling blocks within the field of social media archiving, the conference discussions got all attendees excited to begin further exploration of web preservation. The internet is the main resource through which we communicate, disseminate knowledge, and create modern history. Therefore, the pursuit of preserving such history is necessary and integral to the field of archiving.

Admission of the Proctors

Every year, on the Wednesday of the 9th week of Hilary Term, the University admits its new Proctors and Assessor to office. These are senior officers of the University, responsible for scrutiny and discipline, whose role is to oversee student matters and uphold the University’s statutes and policies. The two Proctors (a Senior Proctor and a Junior Proctor) and the Assessor are selected from the fellows of three colleges (one for each) on a rota basis and each officer holds their position full-time for 12 months.

The role of the Proctor is ancient. First referred to in 1248, the two Proctors were the principal officers of the University, along with the Chancellor. They were responsible for discipline and order, both in terms of academic studies and conduct. At first the Proctors were chosen from among the fellows of colleges, one Proctor for each of the two ‘nations’ into which the University was divided at that time. The Senior Proctor was chosen by the ‘southerners’ and the Junior Proctor by the ‘northerners’. The procedure for their election was complex until 1574 when they began to be elected annually by Convocation (the body of MAs of the University at that time). This lasted until the early seventeenth century when, following a number of rigged elections and some chaotic and pretty violent meetings of Convocation, a new way of selecting the Proctors had to be devised.

Illuminated transcript of the Proctorial cycle, 31 December 1628 (OUA/Long Box 21/2)

The Proctorial cycle, instituted in 1628 at the initiative of King Charles I and the Chancellor of the University, William Laud, established the basis of the current system of selecting the Proctors from each college in turn. Drawn up by two mathematicians, the prearranged order (at that time spanning 23 years) was designed to avoid the conflict of recent years and ensure that the larger colleges didn’t dominate the process (although they did have more frequent turns).

The new cycle came into effect in 1629 and ten full cycles had been completed by the time a new cycle was introduced in 1859. Later amendments have since been made to the cycle to incorporate new colleges and halls; and from 1960 the women’s colleges were permitted to elect a Representative, now known as the Assessor. The Assessor was formally incorporated into the Proctorial cycle in 1978.

The incoming Proctors and Assessor are admitted to office each March at a ceremony held, in recent years, in the Sheldonian Theatre. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 ceremony took place without an audience, and the 2021 ceremony was held online. This year’s admission ceremony, on Wednesday 16 March, is the first to be held in person and in full for three years.

Senior and Junior Proctors’ copies of the Laudian Statutes, 1636 (OUA/WPgamma/25c/3-4)

Senior and Junior Proctors’ copies of the Laudian Statutes, 1636 (OUA/WPgamma/25c/3-4)

As part of the ceremony, the incoming Proctors place their hands on two ancient volumes of University statutes while they swear their oaths of office. These are copies of the 1636  Laudian Statutes held in the University Archives. The Laudian Statutes, so named because their compilation took place under the Chancellorship of William Laud, represented a watershed moment in the history of the University: it was the first time that all the University’s statutes and regulations had been brought together and recorded in one place. They remained at the heart of University governance for several centuries.

The copies of the statutes used in the ceremony were specially made  in 1636 for the Senior and Junior Proctors.  They were to be their personal copies, handed down from Proctor to Proctor as the most important tool for their job. They have recently been handsomely recovered in leather wrappers, fit for their ceremonial role. The statutes are personally escorted to and from the ceremony each year by staff of the University Archives.

The statutes are of course no longer current, but along with a bunch of historic keys which is handed to the Proctors during the ceremony, they are symbols of the ancient but continuing power which the Proctors hold within the University.

 

Conference Report: IIPC Web Archiving Conference 2021

This year’s International Internet Preservation Consortium Web Archiving Conference was held online from 15-16th June 2021, bringing together professionals from around the world to share their experiences of preserving the Web as a research tool for future generations. In this blog post, Simon Mackley reports back on some of the highlights from the conference.  

How can we best preserve the World Wide Web for future researchers, and how can we best provide access to our collections? These were the questions that were at the forefront of this year’s International Internet Preservation Consortium Web Archiving Conference, which was hosted virtually by the National Library of Luxembourg. Web archiving is a subject of particular interest to me: as one of the Bodleian Library’s Graduate Trainee Digital Archivists, I spend a lot of my time working on our own Web collections as part of the Bodleian Libraries Web Archive. It was great therefore to have the chance to attend part of this virtual conference and hear for myself about new developments in the sector.

One thing that really struck me from the conference was the huge diversity in approaches to preserving the Web. On the one hand, many of the papers concerned large-scale efforts by national legal deposit institutions. For instance, Ivo Branco, Ricardo Basílio, and Daniel Gomes gave a very interesting presentation on the creation of the 2019 European Parliamentary Elections collection at the Portuguese Web Archive. This was a highly ambitious project, with the aim of crawling not just the Portuguese Web domain but also capturing a snapshot of elections coverage across 24 different European languages through the use of an automated search engine and a range of web crawler technologies (see their blog for more details). The World Wide Web is perhaps the ultimate example of an international information resource, so it is brilliant to see web archiving initiatives take a similarly international approach.

At the other end of the scale, Hélène Brousseau gave a fascinating paper on community-based web archiving at Artexte library and research centre, Canada. Within the arts community, websites often function as digital publications analogous to traditional exhibition catalogues. Brousseau emphasised the need for manual web archiving rather than automated crawling as a means of capturing the full content and functionality of these digital publications, and at Artexete this has been achieved by training website creators to self-archive their own websites using Conifer. Given that in many cases web archivists often have minimal or even no contact with website creators, it was fascinating to hear of an approach that places creators at the very heart of the process.

It was also really interesting to hear about the innovative new ways that web archives were engaging with researchers using their collections, particularly in the use of new ‘Labs’-style approaches. Marie Carlin and Dorothée Benhamou-Suesser for instance reported on the new services being planned for researchers at the Bibliothèque nationale de France Data Lab, including a crawl-on-demand service and the provision of web archive datasets. New methodologies are always being developed within the Digital Humanities, and so it is vitally important that web archives are able to meet the evolving needs of researchers.

Like all good conferences, the papers and discussions did not solely focus on the successes of the past year, but also explored the continued challenges of web archiving and how they can be addressed. Web archiving is often a resource-intensive activity, which can prove a significant challenge for collecting institutions. This was a major point of discussion in the panel session on web archiving the coronavirus pandemic, as institutions had to balance the urgency of quickly capturing web content during a fast-evolving crisis against the need to manage resources for the longer-term, as it became apparent that the pandemic would last months rather than weeks. It was clear from the speakers that no two institutions had approached documenting the pandemic in quite the same way, but nonetheless some very useful general lessons were drawn from the experiences, particularly about the need to clearly define collection scope and goals at the start of any collecting project dealing with rapidly changing events.

The question of access presents an even greater challenge. We ultimately work to preserve the Web so that researchers can make use of it, but as a sector we face significant barriers in delivering this goal. The larger legal deposit collections, for instance, can often only be consulted in the physical reading rooms of their collecting libraries. In his opening address to the conference, Claude D. Conter of the National Library of Luxembourg addressed this problem head-on, calling for copyright reform in order to meet reader expectations of access.

Yet although these challenges may be significant, I have no doubt from the range of new and innovative approaches showcased at this conference that the web archiving sector will be able to overcome them. I am delighted to have had the chance to attend the conference, and I cannot wait to see how some of the projects presented continue to develop in the years to come.

Simon Mackley

Keeping the university reading

Our approach is to prioritise the safety of our staff and readers, whilst working hard to make it possible to ‘Keep the University reading’.

You might not be able to come to the Bod, but the Bod can come to you.

Library buildings
Our public spaces (e.g. exhibition galleries) were closed from 9am on 17 March 2020.

All library sites and reading rooms will close to readers until further notice. Bodleian Health Care Libraries will be open 24/7 unstaffed, to support our clinical and NHS communities.

Library services
Our physical services will be suspended, whilst we both continue and expand our digital services.

1. eResources. The Bodleian provides access to over 118k eJournals, and over 1.4m eBooks. Our priority is to maintain access to these, and to add to the eResources that we provide for the Oxford community. All accessible through SOLO. More details can be found here.

2. Scan-and-deliver. This service, scanning materials for readers from collections at the Book Storage Facility and accessed through SOLO, will become free of charge for all library card holders. A new service, ‘Scan-and-deliver+’ (accessed here) will provide scans of material in Oxford library locations.

3. Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO). The ORLO service provides students with online reading lists linked to library and open access resources and can be used in Canvas or through its own user interface. ORLO currently holds 1,000+ lists for the current academic year in support of 22+ departments from across the academic divisions. We are instigating a rapid roll-out to other courses. More details can be found here.

4. Loans. All books currently on loan will be auto-renewed until 19 June 2020. Please hold on to books you have out, do not return them. Any fines will be waived. We are considering other options to reintroduce lending on a limited basis, in the future.

5. Inter-Library-Loans (ILL). Electronic delivery will soon be available free of charge (accessed here), but physical ILL is suspended.

6. Oxford University Research Archive (ORA). The ORA service (accessed here) will continue in support of open access to Oxford research, and in support of REF.

7. eReference/enquiries. We have expanded our Live Chat service, available 9am–7pm every day from Monday 23 March, available from our website, LibGuides or SOLO.  Remote assistance from expert library staff is available by emailing reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk (staffed weekdays, 9am–5pm).

While we are working hard to ensure we can maintain our digital services, and expand them where possible, we will be able to do this only when it does not compromise the health and safety of our staff.

Please visit the Bodleian website and social media channels for regular updates.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Richard Ovenden, OBE
Bodley’s Librarian

Note: Many digital services, like our catalogue SOLO or ORA are accessible to all, while some of the services and resources noted above are restricted to Bodleian Libraries card holders (Single Sign On required).

Emily Hobhouse, Oxfam, and humanitarian handicrafts

On Thursday and Friday, 27 and 28 June, ‘Humanitarian Handicrafts: Materiality, Development and Fair Trade. A Re-evaluation’, a collaboration between the University of Huddersfield, Leeds Beckett University and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute of the University of Manchester, brought together historians, curators, archivists and craft practitioners to explore handicraft production for humanitarian purposes from the late 19th century to the present. Subjects ranged from the work of the humanitarian reformer, Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926), founder of Boer Home Industries in the aftermath of the 1899-1902 South African War, through lace-making in Belgium during WW1 and initiatives in Eastern Europe after WW2, to the work of the Huddersfield Committee for Famine Relief (‘Hudfam’) and Oxfam from the late 1950s.

Oxfam’s handicrafts story and its archive were featured strongly at the conference in papers on ‘Helping by Selling’ from 1963, Oxfam’s scheme for the purchase of handicrafts from producers in poor countries for sale in the U.K., the proceeds being returned as grants for humanitarian work; the foundation of Oxfam’s ‘Bridge’ fair trade organisation in 1975, the first in the U.K. and probably in Europe; and the development of the International Federation for Alternative Trade, later the World Fair Trade Organisation, with Oxfam’s support. In addition, the work of Cecil Jackson-Cole was considered. Jackson-Cole, a founder and long-term Hon. Secretary of Oxfam, went on to found charities including Help the Aged and ActionAid and was instrumental in opening charity shops in South Africa in the 1970s.

'Bridge' poster

‘Bridge’ poster, Oxfam archive

On Thursday evening, the Emily Hobhouse Letters, a project to recover Hobhouse’s contribution to international peace, relief and reconstruction in South Africa and Europe, launched its travelling exhibition, ‘War Without Glamour’, which draws extensively on documents from her archive held at the Bodleian. A display of items from the archive will open on 21 September in the Old Library Proscholium. See:

https://emilyhobhouselettersproject.wordpress.com/exhibition/

Emily Hobhouse

Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926)

Sixth British Library Labs Symposium

On Monday November 12, 2018 I was fortunate enough to attend the annual British Library Labs Symposium. During the symposium the British Library showcases the projects that they have been working on for their digital collections and issues awards to those who either contributed to those projects or used the digital collections to create their own projects.

According to Adam Farquhar, Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library, this year’s symposium was their biggest and best attended yet: a testimony to the growing importance of digitization, as well as digital preservation and curation, within both archives and libraries.

This year’s theme of 3D models and scanning was wonderfully introduced by Daniel Prett, Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, in his keynote lecture on ‘The Value, Impact and Importance of experimenting with Cultural Heritage Digital Collections’. He explained how, during his time with the British Museum, they began to experiment with the creation of digital 3D models. This eventually lead to the purchase of a rig with multiple camera’s allowing them to take better quality photos in less time. At the Fitzmuseum, Prett has continued to advocate the development of 3D imaging. The museum now even offers free 3D imaging workshops open to anyone who is in possession of a laptop and any device that has a camera (including a smartphone).

Although Prett shared much of his other successful projects with us, he also emphasized that much of digitization is about trial and error, and stressed the importance recording those errors. Unfortunately, libraries and archives alike are prone to celebrate their successes, but cover-up their errors, even though we may learn just as much from them. Prett called upon all attendees to more frequently share their errors, so we may learn from each other.

During the break I wandered into a separate room where individuals and companies showcased the projects that they developed in relation to the digital libraries special collections. A lucky few managed to lay their hands on a VR headset in order to experience Project Lume (a virtual data simulation program) and part of the exhibition by Nomad. The British Library itself showcased their own digitization services, including 360° spin photography and 3D imaging. The latter lead to some interesting discussions about the de- and re-contextualization of artworks when using 3D imaging technology.

In the midst of all this there was one stand that did not lure its spectators with fancy technology or gadgets. Instead, Jonah Coman, winner of the BL Teaching & Learning Award, showcased the small zines that he created. The format of these Pocket Miscellany, as they are called, are inspired by small medieval manuscripts and are intended to inform their readers about marginalized bodies, disability and queerness in medieval literature. Due to copyright issues these zines are not available for purchase, but can be found on Coman’s Patreon website.

The BL labs symposium also showed how the digital collections of the British Library can inspire both art and fashion. Fashion designer Nabil Nayal, who unfortunately could not accept his BL labs Commercial Award in person, for example, had used the Elizabethan digital collections as inspiration for the collection he presented at the British Library during the London Fashion week.

Artist Richard Wright, on the other hand, looked to the library’s infrastructure for inspiration. This resulted in The Elastic System, a virtual mosaic of hundreds of the British Library books that together make-up a sketch of Thomas Watts. When you zoom in on the mosaic you can browse the books in detail and can even order them through a link to the BL’s catalogue that is integrated in the picture. Once a book is checked out, it reveals the pictures of BL employees working in the stacks to collect the books. It thereby slowly reveals a part of the library that is usually hidden from view.

Another fascinating talk was given by artist Michael Takeo Magruder about his exhibition on Imaginary Cities which will be staged at the British Library’s entrance hall from 5 April to 14 July 2019. Magruder is using the library’s 19th and early 20th century maps collection to create new and ever changing maps and simulations of virtual, fantastical cities. Try as I might, I fear I cannot do justice to Magruder’s unique and intriguing artwork with words alone and can therefore only urge you to go visit the exhibition this coming year.

These are only a few of the wonderful talks that were given during the Labs symposium. The British Labs symposium was a real eye opener for me. I did not realize just how quickly the field of 3D imaging had developed within the museum and library world. Nor did I realize how digital collections could be used, not simply to inspire, but create actual artworks.

Yet, one of the things that struck me most is how much the development of and advocacy for the use of digital collections within archives and libraries is spurred on by passionate individuals; be they artists who use digital collections to inspire their work, digital- and IT-specialists willing to sacrifice a lunch break or two for the sake of progress or individual scholars who create little zines to spread awareness about a topic they feel passionate about. Imagine what they can do if initiatives like the BL labs continue to bring such people together. I, for one, cannot wait to see what the future for digital collections and scholarship holds. On to next year’s symposium.